House GOP moderates make the stupidest threat to party extremists possible

The less-insane wing of the House GOP caucus just made the most insane threat they could have made in the debate over who will be the next Speaker of the House: Give us Paul Ryan, or we’ll quit.

To which I can only imagine the House Freedom Caucus saying, “please proceed.”

“De­pend­ing on how this shakes out, you may see some Main Street mem­bers re­tire,” Republican Main Street Partnership CFO and COO Sarah Chamberlain told the National Journal, “… They’re hop­ing for a Ry­an-type can­did­ate. But if it’s not and it be­comes a huge mess, why be sit­ting here?”

As Rep. Peter King (DW-Nominate: .283) told the Journal, “A lot has been put on hold in both ways—people de­cid­ing to run again, or not run again,” while clarifying that he is personally going to stick around “because you can’t give in.” Likewise, Rep. Charlie Dent (DW-Nominate: .264) said that he is “pre­par­ing as if I’m run­ning for reelec­tion right now,” but that “we’ll see what hap­pens. The next two months are go­ing to be pretty intense.”

These may amount to honest assessments of what life will be like in a House controlled by the practically off-the-charts conservative wing of the GOP caucus (as if they don’t already run the show), but it’s objectively terrible politics. There’s a reason that House arch-conservatives have made life miserable for the Charlie Dents of the party: they want them gone. Threatening to retire only strengthens the same subset of the party that has been giving them fits in the first place.

Charlie Dent, via Wikimedia Commons

Charlie Dent, via Wikimedia Commons

What they should be doing is leaning in on an idea that Dent himself has floated and now undermined: getting Democratic votes for a coalition speaker. If the less-conservative members of the House at least pretended to take this idea a bit more seriously — if they were anywhere near as willing to flex their muscles as the crazy caucus has proven to be, they could credibly float the idea of Charlie Dent or Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (DW-Nominate: .260) — a deal that would almost certainly require a bill to raise the debt ceiling through 2016 and government funding bills that did not defund Planned Parenthood in order to attract Democratic votes. Given the choice between that and Paul Ryan, the Freedom Caucus would almost certainly pick Ryan.

As I wrote last week, Paul Ryan (DW-Nominate: .586) may be more than conservative enough to be Speaker under normal political circumstances, but that these aren’t normal political circumstances. The philosophical differences in the Republican Party are so vast — and the “repeal and defund the entire government” wing of the Party is so large — that getting 218 of them to agree on one speaker will be about as easy as getting 218 members of the entire legislative body to do the same. By threatening to retire rather than pull back against the off-the-rails extremism of their party, they’re admitting the very defeat their opponents have hoped for.

And you wonder how the GOP let itself go this far off the rails in the first place.

(h/t TalkingPointsMemo)

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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51 Responses to “House GOP moderates make the stupidest threat to party extremists possible”

  1. Houndentenor says:

    The Democrats have nothing to gain either way. The GOP is now so extreme that the “moderate” candidate they are pulling for is Paul Ryan! This is what I’m talking about. No one can deal with them and it’s going to be a shitshow no matter what. So why should Democrats bail them out? They don’t deserve it and it doesn’t accomplish anything except help the GOP get back on track with its extremist agenda.

  2. 2karmanot says:


  3. Dear Republicans: Your petard is calling….

  4. Naja pallida says:

    The Democrats have nothing to gain as long as the Republicans hold the majority, but finding a Speaker who might have two clues to rub together would be better for everyone than if the teabaggers continue to drag this out. Or worse, have someone totally bonkers step up, who essentially uses the Speakership as a kamikaze tool to crater what is left of our legislative process.

  5. BeccaM says:

    “Don’t throw us in the briar patch!”

  6. BeccaM says:

    Indeed. And the Roman empire. And the Ottomans. And Portugal. And the British empire.

    There’s only so much undermining an empire can take before the whole edifice collapses. As far as I’m concerned, the repeated GOPer fucking with the debt ceiling and the ‘full faith and credit’ for the nation’s debt obligations could do it.

    Not a military conquest of America, but an economic catastrophe.

  7. Moderator3 says:

    I had to stop it. I kept saying, “Huh?”

  8. Houndentenor says:

    And again, what do Democrats get from that deal? Some compromises on bills? An actual budget rather than a series of bullshit resolutions?

    It’s not the job of the minority party to save the ass of the majority. Especially since once they do all they’ll get is a boot in the face.

  9. Moderator4 says:

    When I talk to myself, I can at least be assured of the highest level of intelligent conversation. :)

  10. Naja pallida says:

    They just need to actually follow the process, one which they themselves created. Instead of this dicking around, which is essentially keeping the business of the House in limbo. Boehner needs to just keep all members of the Republican caucus in session through a series of secret ballots for nominations. Nobody leaves until someone comes out with a majority, or if they do leave, they simply forfeit their vote. Once someone has a majority, then call the rest of the House back in, and hold a floor vote. If King and Dent have any clout at all, they should have no problem coming up with a Speaker the Democrats could live with.

    The ultimate problem here isn’t that there isn’t anyone qualified to be Speaker. Or even that there isn’t anyone who wants the job. There just simply isn’t anyone with the courage to actually make a move.

  11. JoyceTurner2 says:

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  12. nicho says:

    When holding your breath until you turn blue just won’t do.

  13. Indigo says:

    I look at it this way, Spain was a world power until, unexpectedly, it wasn’t. That’s the paradigm we’re in, we think we’re great. We’ve got statistics to prove it. The rest of the world sees something else entirely. That’s exactly how it went with the Spanish Empire. Sigh.

  14. Indigo says:

    I’m beginning to see all this through the lens of European Anarchy. You know, the big A inside a circle. Our Republicans have embraced Anarchy. I think it’s well past time to call them by that name.

  15. Indigo says:

    I agree. The Republicans have been voting Anarchist since at least 2010. I would suggest the roots of that impulse date back to the 1980s but 2010 works fine to uncover the roots of their current anarchist policies.

  16. Oh teh noes they may retire? Not that!! anything but that!!! *snark*

  17. Indigo says:

    After all, Spain was powerful until, suddenly, it wasn’t.

  18. Indigo says:

    It’s frightening.

  19. Indigo says:

    The federal military policy seems to me unchanged from the genocidal policy that fueled the American Indian Wars. Crush any opposition, then blame the survivors for not submitting gracefully. I suspect West Point learned that original policy from an unusually militant version of Caesar’s Gallic Wars.

  20. Moderator3 says:

    Do you need an affidavit from me to prove you aren’t talking to yourself?

  21. angryspittle says:

    Oh Please! Quit already and the maybe we can elect some Dems.

  22. Moderator4 says:

    Yes. Gone.

  23. Baal says:

    OK. Quit.

  24. Houndentenor says:

    The district where I currently live is represented by one of these Teavangelical assholes. The district is Gerrymandered so that he wins with 60-65% of the vote every time. So yeah it’s safe because men are going to dress up in women’s clothes and accost men in the bathroom because Jesus! Oh and Obama is going to take away all our guns in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, ummm well soon anyway!

  25. Houndentenor says:

    Americans who don’t leave the country or read any foreign press have no idea. In fact what I hear from my Teavangelical relatives is that the rest of the world doesn’t respect Obama, when it was Bush they all hated. And the rest of the world IS watching this and the primaries. Yikes. Kind of makes the Trump reality show not so funny, doesn’t it?

  26. Houndentenor says:

    The solution is quite simple. A group of moderate Republicans (are there any left) goes to the “Freedom (as if) Caucus and tells them to vote for the candidate up for Speaker or they’ll vote for Pelosi. They can do that. They’d have to mean it. That’s their choice and let them make it.

  27. Houndentenor says:

    And what will Democrats get in return for those votes? Anything? Pelosi helped Boehner too much as it was. Yes, she just wanted to try to get anything done. And what did the country get in exchange for that? Nada. Fuck the GOP. Let them figure it out or concede that they can’t govern. Or let the moderate Democrats vote for Pelosi as Speaker.

  28. Houndentenor says:

    You mean like they did last time? And then the Democrats got NOTHING in return? HELL NO.

    I’m all for compromise but in a compromise I get at least one thing I want. A compromise is not give you a boost so you can slam your boot in my face. Fuck the GOP. This is what everyone who voted for a Republican since 2010 asked for. If they don’t like it, then vote these bastards out of office.

  29. BeccaM says:


  30. BeccaM says:

    Yeah… there comes a time when there are enough of the attack dogs in sheer numbers that one must be forced to realize, “I’m really not in charge of this situation anymore, am I?”

    Like I said, when it was just a few loonies, the GOPers could just about ignore ’em. They have 247 Republican Representatives in the House. This means they could tolerate a maximum of 29 arsonists. Well, the ‘Freedom (sic) Caucus’ now has about 36 members, which of course puts the rest of the party 7 votes short of electing a Speaker.

    It’s astounding that a mere 8.3% of the House’s members are basically demanding to dictate who gets to be the next Speaker of the House, But that’s what it’s come down to.

  31. BeccaM says:

    You’re correct. Only the problem is the entire country suffers, not just some short-sighted GOP leaders.

  32. derby saly says:

    The less wacky incumbent Republicans are terrified of Obat Aborsi Usia 2 Bulan doing this for
    fear of being challenged by Tea Bagger “burn it all down” candidates.

  33. timncguy says:

    they have a way out. if they choose not to take it, then it’s their fault and they can’t blame the teatards

  34. BeccaM says:

    They can, but choose not to, because a major part of the GOP orthodoxy is never to cooperate with the Democrats on anything. The less wacky incumbent Republicans are terrified of doing this for fear of being challenged by Tea Bagger “burn it all down” candidates.

  35. BeccaM says:

    The problem with U.S. military actions is the goals are clear only up until shortly after the invaded country’s government has been deposed.

    You know the old saying about how government authority is derived from the consent of the governed. Well, the policies to date have been to topple the enemy government (while destroying much of the country and eliminating all sources of order-keeping and gov’t authority) in the pursuit of a short-term goal of conquest. This is followed by the attempted installation of an America-friendly weak puppet government. What’s missing from all that is the consent of the governed and the failure to recognize that no nation so lacks pride and patriotism as to welcome being occupied and ruled over by foreign troops. Especially when those troops treat everybody like enemy combatants.

    When the war-hawks and chicken-hawks squawk about America not being “in the business of nation-building” — that right there is the problem. The U.S. can’t hold onto the territory it conquers because there is no plan beyond permanent occupation. No rebuilding. No carrot, only stick.

  36. timncguy says:

    can anyone explain why the less whacky republicans don’t just ignore the 40 teatards and make a deal with the democrats to get a reasonable speaker elected that will work with dems to get things done and freeze out the teatards?

  37. Indigo says:

    We’re very good at ugly.

  38. Indigo says:

    I’m very concerned about the economic angle. We have vast munitions but our military’s performance over the past couple of decades has been lackluster at best. We can destroy but we don’t seem able to hold on to territory we conquer. As for the economy, the continued presence of these radical Republicans is a threat to our own economy. Their success is our national defeat at the economic level.

  39. nicho says:

    “When you’re born, you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front-row seat.” — George Carlin

  40. mf_roe says:

    The Freedom Caucus types are classic “True Believers” dying for the cause is just as desirable as getting their stated objective. For them if it can’t be controlled it must be killed and since the idea of a government actually working sort of destroys their idiot logic killing it is actually the preferred result. Think Suicide Bombers, Church Bombers, Clinic Bombers, think people so enraged by an idea that offends them they will destroy anything they can to simply show their hatred.

    They are a street gang and Shutdowns are their initiations. Compromise is betrayal–turning Nark And above all extremism is a virtue not a vice.

  41. Naja pallida says:

    The family that has a large gun collection, for “protection”, and the toddlers are shooting up the adults in the house.

  42. BeccaM says:

    Economically and militarily, the U.S. is still a superpower nation, and it’s the former of those two which is the more important from a geopolitical standpoint. The single biggest threat to that status, in my opinion, comes every time the radical Republicans fuck around with shutdowns and the debt ceiling.

    However, you are correct on the angle that U.S. promises no longer mean anything, and this is a big problem.

  43. mf_roe says:

    We still own the world’s biggest arsenal of nukes, the end could be very ugly indeed.

  44. mf_roe says:

    The GOP is acting like a dysfunctional family that breeds pit bulls which they train as attack dogs for protection. The situation is so volatile and potentially destructive nobody dares intervene. You know it will be bad, you hope that it will be quick and you give it a wide berth.

  45. Naja pallida says:

    My major issue with this premise is that Paul Ryan is as extreme and delusional as they come. When the crazies were saying Romney was too moderate, Ryan was his choice specifically to court them. His budget and spending proposals are sociopathic screeds. He’s not moderate by any stretch of the definition.

    The cowards of the Republican party who have allowed the crazies to steer the ship for nearly a decade now, are suddenly waking up and wondering why things are not going their way. They’re not doing anything useful for the American people anyway, so who really cares if they quit? They can’t even manage to defend the legitimacy of the Constitution, much less be actively involved in the process in good faith. They no longer serve any purpose, other than to warm a seat until they finally get driven out of office on way or another.

  46. Indigo says:

    I don’t know that it’s a stupid threat. The threat from the extremists is stupid, the threat to drop everything and walk off is actually sensible. Let the whole thing collapse; it’s tottering anyhow. It’s not stupid to get out of the way when the scaffolding on a structure gives way. It’s sensible.

  47. Indigo says:

    Oh, but wait. “. . . the US will cease to be a superpower.”

    Um . . . I’m thinking that ship sailed during Bubba’s invasion of Iraq. Right now, we got raw power and no respect. Apart from the occasional drone slaughter, we’ve got nothing internationally, the US collapse in Afghanistan is a foregone conclusion, pending the next pResidency.

    Golly, when I put it that way, it might be just as well to hand the pResidency to the Donald and stand back while the collapse becomes self-evident to the hard-headed. The head-long rush to extremism is way ahead of the curve and already dragging the US down, not only internationally but here at home.

  48. BeccaM says:

    I’m not wondering how the GOP got into this state: They did it to themselves.

    People can reasonably argue as to exactly when it began, but the conservative radicalization has been going on for at least a generation now. At first it was just a wedge issue tactic to rally the shrinking GOP base. But the reins of control slipped out of the hands of the establishment Republicans right around the time they ginned up their Tea Bagger movement. The fact they pretended the ‘Baggers weren’t just an even more radical expression of far, far right Republican conservativism only guaranteed the GOP’s leaders and organizers would have almost no control over their Frankenstein’s monster once unleashed.

    Any party can handle and tolerate a few bomb-lobbers, but the Republicans went and let them collect enough power, they now can control a minority party with an even tinier minority of far right radicals.

    I have no idea how long it will take or what will ultimately happen. The current situation just isn’t tenable. Either the GOP will fracture and/or break up, or the concept of federalism itself is going to collapse and the U.S. will cease to be a superpower. There might have been a time when the Republicans could have stopped their headlong rush to extremism, but it’s long since over.

  49. zomgitsjesus says:

    Promises promises. Just quit already.

  50. mf_roe says:

    Mental illness is a tragic misfortune, that misfortune is compounded when the family denies the illness and tries to excuse dysfunction as excessive reactions to outside factors. When the family insists on blaming those external factors and demanding that accommodations be made to “Solve” the problem you get exactly this kind of tragedy

    The sick aren’t treated, the innocents are scapegoated, and the family’s reputation winds up trashed. It would be fun to watch if it weren’t such a waste of lives. I hope the end is swift.

  51. Hue-Man says:

    The only solution is for the money tap to be turned off. Every TeaParty/GOP congress-creep that shows up for their money beg should be sent packing, without bus fare home. If they won’t listen to “cents” maybe they’ll listen to “douleurs”.

    How safe is your district if you can’t afford gas to drive your pick-up around for votes?

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